No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018/20: The Prisoner of Zenda -- Anthony Hope

If you say that I ought to have spent my time in useful labour, I am out of Court and have nothing to say, save that my parents had no business to leave me two thousand pounds a year and a roving disposition. [p. 6]

I'm sure I've read this classic of swashbuckling pseudohistorical romance before, yet little seemed familiar.
Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll decides to visit Ruritania, to which he has tenous (wrong side of the blanket) family ties. How fortuitous! He bears a striking resemblance to King Rudolph V, who is due to be crowned the very next day -- and whose dastardly brother Black Michael has abducted and drugged him. Can Rudolf Rassendyll help the true king by impersonating him? Of course he can.

Meanwhile, Black Michael's villainous but dashing henchman, Rupert of Hentzau, steals every scene he's in -- unlike the female characters (King Rudolph's fiancee Flavia, with whom Rudolf Rassendyll falls violently but chastely in love; Black Michael's scheming mistress Antoinette de Mauban, who makes some unpleasant discoveries about her lover) who are, period-typically, somewhat feeble and ruled by their hearts, rather than their heads.

Rudolf Rassendyll is not an especially likeable character, I have to say. But I'm glad I (re)read this, so that I could fully enjoy the delightful reimagining of KJ Charles' 'queered classic' version, The Henchmen of Zenda. Watch this space...

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